An incident occurring in the canyon country of Utah over the weekend has drawn attention to what authorities say is a growing problem of people relying more on modern Global Positioning System (GPS) technology than on good old common sense when it comes to backcountry travel.
And in more and more cases, such over-reliance on the GPS screen is leading to trouble in the outdoors.
For example, on Saturday, a 4-vehicle convoy comprising 26 vacationers from Los Angeles departed Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park for a side trip to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument on their way to the Grand Canyon. Their GPS directed them to take a primitive route than was more suited for serious off-road travel than for the passenger vehicles they were driving.
As a result, the Southern Californians–ranging in age from 2 to 70–found themselves stranded on a 500-foot cliff at 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Running short of both fuel and water, they finally used a cell phone to summon help.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that it took several hours for the panicked travelers to give deputies from the Kane County Sheriff’s Department their accurate location coordinates, and the stranded tourists were finally found at 11:45 Sunday morning.
“All of them were thirsty, but no one was injured,” Chief Deputy Tracy Glover told the Salt Lake newspaper.
Glover said that since the creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996, dozens have been stranded while following GPS information.
Sheriff Lamont Smith offered some sage advice to backcountry GPS users.
“It’s just a piece of equipment that’s only as good as the data programmed into it,” Smith said. “It can show which direction to go, but not the 500-foot cliff where you can’t go any farther.”
And here at The Newshound, we’ll offer some advice of our own.
Learn how to read and follow a good, old-fashioned road map.